Recently Leroy Whiteman (Red Bird), age 81, Northern Cheyenne, made his journey to the Next Camp
. Thank you to Native Sun News Today for including his obituary in this issue.
He was my only uncle on my Mother’s side. Traditionally, uncles and aunties played the role of disciplinarians, teachers and advisors to their nieces and nephews, a role Leroy took very seriously.
But he was also my inspiration, constant supporter and best friend. I, along with many others will miss him so much.
Leroy Whiteman - artist, US Airman, Warrior, Indian relay, Golden gloves champion, soccer star, reenactor, father,...Posted by Steve Held on Sunday, March 1, 2020
Privileged to speak at his service I told the following story about him, which he had related many times. Some suggested that I write it down. What better way than a newspaper column?
His mother, Emma was reputedly a very beautiful young Cheyenne woman who had her only two children (Mom and Leroy) by 18, then a single Mother. Thus, she embarked on some adventures, leaving her children in the care of her Mother, Grandma Alice. Years later, when Mom was 15 and Leroy 12, Emma married a white rancher in Prairie County, MT, Per (thereafter our Grandpa) suddenly gaining respectability.
Thus, she retrieved her children, taking them to Prairie County. Mom was pretty docile, getting married off soon to another white (Irish) rancher at a young age. In all fairness, I say that both Per and Jim (my Dad) were ever kind and respectful to their inherited Cheyenne relatives. Leroy included who returned the favor. An excellent horseman, owner and trainer of two National Champion Indian Relay Reams, Leroy once gave my Dad the ultimate compliment: “Most of what I know about horses came from Jim.”
But, in spite of that, Leroy literally was drug to Prairie County kicking and screaming. He wanted to stay with Grandma Alice – with the Northern Cheyenne.
At that time (in the 50’s) and to some extent today, Prairie County, Montana is not particularly friendly territory for Northern Cheyenne. The two main towns (Terry and Fallon) are named in honor of Custer’s officers and many folks there are still mad about Custer’s Last Stand. The other problem, as Leroy quickly learned, is that Prairie County is filled with “Roo-shans, GerMans and Norweegans,” Those fellers, as he explained were tall white guys, although a little soft, who did not welcome a much smaller and scrappy Cheyenne kid.
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